Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 8, 2000
Long-time principal had place for priests
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Former St. Joseph's High School principal and Tory MLA Al Hiebert died April 23 at the age of 61 after a brief battle with cancer.
He was a familiar face in local education circles having been with Edmonton Catholic Schools for 35 years and serving as a member of the University of Alberta's board of governors.
"He was a man of service," said long-time friend Msgr. Felix Otterson.
Otterson met Hiebert in 1961. They worked together at Austin O'Brien High School, where Hiebert was a principal before moving on to St. Joseph's.
"He's a caring man . . . he made sure the priest was important in the school," Otterson said. "He respected them. You look at the way he honours Father Michael Troy."
Troy has been synonymous with St. Joseph's since he came on board as chaplain more than 15 years ago. One of the school's gyms and an annual basketball tournament is named after the priest.
Hiebert, principal at St. Joe's for 25 years, invited Troy to join the school as its chaplain, but the school board was not supportive of the idea, said Otterson.
"But (Hiebert) recognized Father Troy's gifts and he wanted him at St. Joe's," Otterson said. "One of (Hiebert's) greatest gifts was that he always recognized the gifts of other people."
St. Joseph's principal Ron Woytiuk added, "He had excellent people skills. He always provided opportunities for people. His philosophy was to empower people."
Born in Humboldt, Sask., Hiebert earned his bachelor of arts from the University of Saskatchewan, a bachelor of education from the University of Alberta and a master of educational administration from the University of Oregon.
He served two terms as a Progressive Conservative MLA. During that time he was chair of the Edmonton Tory caucus and its education committee.
"He was an educator all through and through," Otterson said. "I think he did a lot for Catholic education."
Woytiuk credits Hiebert for teaching him the ropes at St. Joseph's.
"He had a lot of confidence in me," Woytiuk said. "He helped me to grow."
From Hiebert, Woytiuk said he learned "his approach to teamwork, developing a team and promoting a team.
"He was a very powerful leader. He had a vision for the school and he worked towards that. St. Joe's probably wouldn't be in the position we are today, in terms of technology, without him."
Not only was Hiebert respected as a visionary, but also "a tremendous organizer," Otterson said. "And when he had a dream he would turn that dream into reality."
Otterson credits Hiebert for traditions, such as the annual Remembrance Day celebration, which is still strong at St. Joe's.
"When you had a visionary like Al seeing the vision of the future of the school, it helped to make (the school) grow," Woytiuk said.